Oklahoma Memory Care Facilities Required by Law to Deliver What They Promise

The idea of a “memory care center” is great in theory. A facility designed, equipped and staffed to meet the special needs of people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia might be a true blessing to an Alzheimer’s patient and loved ones.

However, unfortunately, the title “memory care” or “special care” is more hype than substance at some facilities. According to the Alzheimer’s Association: “Often, the term ‘special care unit’ was used as a marketing scheme where the only distinguishing factor was that the unit was locked.”

In Massachusetts, the Department of Public Health recently determined that 50 facilities in that state that advertised dementia care did not offer any meaningful services for dementia patients. That state’s Alzheimer’s Association claimed that at least 60% of dementia care facilities do not meet state regulations.
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Oklahoma’s Alzheimer’s Law

Oklahoma law does not use the term “memory care.” However, the law does set boundaries for facilities that advertise themselves as providing special care to Alzheimer’s and dementia patients.

Oklahoma’s “Alzheimer’s Disease Special Care Disclosure Act” (Title 63, Section 1-879.2) governs “any facility … that advertises, markets, or otherwise promotes itself as providing care or treatment to persons with Alzheimer’s disease or related disorders in a special unit or under a special program.”

It is important to know that in Oklahoma, a special care Alzheimer’s facility does not have to be a nursing home with 24-hour nursing care. The above law permits residential care facilities, assisted living centers, adult day care centers as well as nursing homes to advertise themselves as providing special care for Alzheimer’s and other dementia patients.

What is required of such “special care” facilities is that they must document to the state exactly what services they provide, how they assess patients’ needs initially and periodically, and what training the staff has received to provide the specified care to such patients. Such facilities must also have adequate measures to prevent residents from wandering off.

A directory of long-term care facilities in Oklahoma maintained by the state Health Department lists only three nursing homes that provide specialized Alzheimer’s care.

Most memory care facilities in Oklahoma are assisted living centers. An assisted living center is not required to provide 24-hour nursing care. However, centers that advertise special care for “memory patients” must live up to what they promise and document what they are doing to the state, as described above.

The problem with that is that the law imagines that understaffed state regulators will be able to scrutinize each facility’s unique claims of special care services and programs and hold those facilities accountable.

In reality, the main thing holding memory care facilities accountable to do what they advertise and charge for is the threat of a civil lawsuit after a resident experiences harm.

Alarming Incidents

I recently did a review of lawsuits and complaints filed against various memory care and special care facilities across the country, and came across these alarming incidents:

* A woman who moved into a memory care facility in Mississippi died nine days after she was admitted. She packed her suitcase, told an employee she was leaving, went to the second floor, opened a window and jumped out. She died from her injuries.

* A patient wandered through his memory care facility, found a bottle of industrial-strength detergent and drank it. It killed him. The family sued for negligence and wrongful death and reached a settlement with the facility.

* A New Jersey memory care facility was fined by regulators after one resident wandered off and was found in the middle of a busy intersection, and another resident broke her hip climbing out a second-story window. The same facility previously had a resident who wandered off wearing only a T-shirt and died of hypothermia.

* An 81-year-old resident of a memory care facility fell, injured herself, and became bedridden. She developed pressure ulcers (bedsores) on eight different areas of her body, resulting in her death. The family sued, and the facility offered to pay a settlement of more than $3 million if the family agreed to not publicize their complaints. The family declined. A jury ultimately ordered punitive damages of more than $20 million.

* One of the nation’s largest memory care chains had a policy to “keep the back door shut.” The policy meant that employees were instructed to do everything possible to keep Alzheimer’s patients from transferring to nursing homes, even when the patients’ needs had become severe. The chain’s CEO admitted the policy existed, but said it only meant that employees should provide good service so residents don’t want to leave.

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Trust Our Oklahoma Nursing Home Abuse Attorneys to Fight for You

If you are a resident or have a loved one who is a resident of a memory care facility in Oklahoma, you should know your legal rights.

When a facility promotes itself as providing special care to patients with Alzheimer’s, dementia, or other forms of cognitive impairment, the facility is required by Oklahoma law to know the special needs of the patients it admits and provide adequate programs, staff, and security to meet those needs.

If you or your loved one has experienced abuse, neglect, or significant harm in a memory care facility, assisted living center, nursing home, or other long-term care facility, contact the nursing home abuse lawyers of Hasbrook & Hasbrook for a free consultation.

Our office can be reached by phone (866-416-4737), email (cth@hasbrooklaw.com) or by using our website contact form: Contact Us.